Canopus Station
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Military Intelligence On A Budget

Posted on Sat Feb 29th, 2020 @ 2:38am by Commodore Theodore Grissom & Lieutenant Commander Amie Cerys

Mission: S2:1: Into The Drowning Deeps
Location: Canopus Station, Signals Intelligence Complex, Briefing Room A
Timeline: MD4 10.00

Ted Grissom stepped away from the replicator alcove after the photon printer had laid down the last layer of atoms. The coffee cup in his hands was big, allowing his creased knuckles to warm around the black ceramic. The bright Starfleet delta printed on the side was framed by his grasping fingertips as he turned back to the nearly empty briefing room.

Nearly save for two people. Grissom smiled and raised the cup.

"You'll have to pardon the indulgence. My wife and my Flag Lieutenant seem to be in cahoots about my caffeine consumption. Every replicator on the Palatine has me locked out after my first cup in the morning. But this is a new command, and one is back home on Alpha Centauri 2, and the other is currently managing the baggage train I travel with these days," he took a sip of the coffee and smiled. "One or both of them will corrupt this stations replicator software sooner or later, but for now...sweet, bitter contentment."

He walked back to the table and tapping the inlaid computer terminal sent a file to Lt Tevran's terminal.

"As of this moment, you're being read into an Office of Special Investigation mission file. Codenamed Operation Clover, it's part of Task Force Morrigan's mission in the Milky Way but it pertains to TF Hecate's job out here and the work I expect you both to accomplish," Grissom said. He pointed a finger at Aime. "You got this report yesterday when I arrived, so whilst Mr Tevran gets up to speed you want to get anything from the replicator?"

Unable to contain a smirk at the comment about the caffeine, Amie got up and got herself a cup of chocolate flavored coffee, sitting back down a moment later.

Jinn Tevran read through the report he had been sent, his eyebrow raising slightly as he made his way through. He had been more or less been kept in the dark during the transit to M4, as disturbing as the intel in front of him may have been, it was refreshing to finally be getting some clarity. He had been told in broad strokes that this assignment would be different from his previous covert ops field work, but just how different, or in what way, hadn't been elaborated on. As he finished the report, he imagined this would be less 'cloak and dagger' and more 'uncover the unknown'.

He hadn't exactly been overly fond of the Admiralty's decision to send him out here, but he understood their reasoning. He'd been involved in some shady and potentially embarrassing actions. He had logically expected an assignment far away to keep the spotlight off of him for awhile, he just hadn't expected being sent THIS far. He'd never truly been exposed to the exploratory side of Starfleet before, so that would be new territory for him. Incorporeal races threatening the very core of the Federation would be an interesting change of pace.

Jinn looked up from his terminal at the Commodore. "Raktajino, strong, if you'd be so kind, sir."

Grissom smiled and made the order happen, the strong scent of the Klingon coffee overpowering the rooms air filters within seconds of materialisation. He brought it over to Jinn and set it down.

"When I was read into this, I can tell you I needed something stronger than good coffee. Colonel Torden poured me a glass of something he called Tau Ceti Red, wine if you can believe it with a 40% proof rating. The stuff tasted like pickled tar, but did the job," Grissom shook his head and returned to his seat. "From our reports from the Traveller we know the Myriad are an advanced incorporeal society, who inhabit artificially created Proxies. We also know from those same reports their level of technology surpasses our own, and they have a habit of taking over planets in a scheme best thought of as the Anti-Prime Directive. Our technology is susceptible to their manipulations, making all digital systems vulnerable. And here we are now learning a Myriad cell is operating within the AQ, disseminating advanced technology of a destructive or disruptive nature."

He took a sip of his own coffee.

"The need for an intelligence-led approach to this problem goes without saying, which is why Starfleet Intel and the Office of Special Investigation are working hand in hand. How are the Myriad able to access the Milky Way? What are their long term goals? Their bases of operation? Weaknesses?" he chuckled. "As you can see, your first day on the job is not gonna be a fun one."

Jinn sipped at his drink and shrugged. "To be honest, I've had worse. If you don't mind my asking, Commodore, what exactly will my role here be? I'm assuming that you didn't bring me into a briefing with the station's CIO for nothing."

"That I did not. Nor did I pull strings with your bosses at The Puzzle Palace to get you assigned to the Canopus Station team. This is a new form of intelligence gathering, the likes of which we've not had to deal with since the earliest days of the United Federation of Planets. Hell, from back when we were called The Coalition of Worlds. Messier 4 is a testbed for how we're going to handle and behave out beyond the bounds of our galaxies, and how we're going to push back when those new frontier's turn hostile," Grissom sipped his coffee. "Commander Cerys has a background in intelligence gathering, as well as teaching with her time on the SFA Bajor campus. An ideal frame of mind for commanding this post is one where we're willing to learn and accept new data that doesn't fit our predetermined outlooks. Whereas Mister Tevran's unsealed file reads like a boys own adventure novel. You get the job done, both of you do, but what I see is a team that knows the key to decisive action is by using a keen mind."

He made a gesture to the room's holographics, a spherical clump of stars appeared suspended in the air. At the edge of the equator nearest, the Commodore was a blinking blue star.

"Canopus Station," he said as a pair of yellow stars were highlighted at acute angles into the interior of Messier 4. "The upper star is the Xilosian home system, and the lower is the star known as Beacon. The former was bombed into a toxic winter by the Concordance, and the other is a known hunting ground for a Myriad vassal race called the Reka. Out beyond those data points we know nearly nothing. Your jobs, Commander, Lieutenant, is to fill in this map and find me actionable intel on any Myriad or Conmcordance threats. To that end tell me what you need, and I'll see that you get it."

Amie raised an eyebrow as she set her drink down, having, up until now, just listened. " want us to fill this map in? I wasn't expecting that."

"What were you expecting Commander? We don't have intelligence assets in Messier 4, and what information we have is second or third hand. Not exactly the way I want things to be, but it is what it is," Grissom smiled. "I know what you are thinking, this problem could be solved by using the Canopus Station deep space array and a fleet of warp-capable probes. And normally that's how we'd play this. At high warp, a Mk10 multi phasic probe could cross Messier 4 in four weeks, get us all the data we could ask for. But with the Myriad being so damn tech-savvy we'd couldn't trust it, and with reports that the Concordance like to adapt and copy technology they find into their war effort, I'd rather not throw a half dozen high tech sensor suites out into the void. And using the main array would light up every sensor suits in this stellar cluster like a replicator at happy hour."

He sipped his coffee.

"As I said, you tell me what you need to get the job done and it'll be done." Grissom grinned. "Think of me like jolly Santa Claus."

Jinn raised an eyebrow at that statement. "My career thus far hasn't exactly been one that fit the normal chain of command, so while exploration may not be my specialty, getting the job done with a lack of resources and oversight is right up my alley."

He leaned back in his chair and interlocked his hands behind his head, smiling. "If you have a cloaking device in your giant sack of toys, Santa, I'll take it. Otherwise, a small, fast, decently armed ship would be a good place to start."

"No cloaking device. You'd have thought with the Romulan Empire falling apart to form the Free State there'd be more give in the old treaty. So instead Starfleet's Mad Science Division came up with a ship that doesn't register on sensors. Don't ask me the specifics, but when the masker is online it all but turns visually invisible. No thermal, radiological, or even gravitational footprint. We've tried scaling the tech up to a capital ship, but there were issues of containment," Grissom made another gesture, and the holoprojector flickered again.

This time it showed a Fleet Yard somewhere, the glimpse of a glittering ring belt suggesting perhaps the Antares Very Large Fabrication Array. Within then holo's projection volume a dry dock slip could be since, and most of what looked like a Steamrunner class ship. A skein of black ice punctured the hull along its port side, curling around the broad bow. When viewed against the backdrop of space the ice was a perfect match, and only shifted colour when something shifted behind it. It was like the starship was half there and half somewhere else.

"I'm told by the egg heads that after a certain point the computational algorithms needed to keep a ship masked begin to degrade, and excursion events like this begin to happen. The USS Cambridge is actually fully intact, but due to the light-bending properties of the masker...well she'd stick out. And her port half is radiating the excess thermal load. The Masker technology is prototypical, with only two working examples currently in service. The first is the USS Raven, currently being deployed with SFI Red Team in the AQ. The second is the USS Black Bird, which is currently stowed within one of the freighters en route to this station. She's very nearly unique, do not scratch the paint job."

Jinn's eyebrow rose, as the screens flipped. The Commodore certainly wasn't playing around. They were being trusted with a top of the line ship. This was clearly a priority. There was, however, one more piece of information that Jinn felt would be important in the mission going ahead. He ahd no qualms about getting his hands dirty, but Starfleet, at times, tended to enjoy keeping themselves spotless.

"Sir, it behooves me to request... What kind of operational authority do we have?" he asked.

Amie had been paying attention to the conversations...somewhat. When the information on this ship came up, she was immediately caught up in it. But the question about the operational authority came up and it caught her ear. "We'd be the only two on this thing, I'd assume nearly anything would go...for the most part?"

"For the most part," Commodore Grissom said carefully. "I've been around the Intelligence end of this particular swimming pool to know the deeper out an Operation gets, the more it begins to resemble activities practised by less reputable elements and nation-states. I could tell you stories about anti-piracy operations that turned to active piracy, first as a cover and then as independent sources of income. There at least two fully paid up Orion Syndicate satraps who attended Starfleet Academy the same year as myself."

He shook his head.

"Let me be clear I am not giving you both a licence to do whatever you need to do to get me the information you want. You are to gather information, and in the event of action needs to be taken will have my authority to pursue those activities. In the event, you stumble across something that needs Fleet level support the Blackbird is fitted with an Ansible Q-Com unit. There are only two of these in Messier 4, the one on your ship and the one currently being fitted to my offices on Canopus Station. They do not use subspace transmission channels but are limited to text due to the bandwidth limitations on paired spooky action atoms," Grissom chuckled. "I"m quoting the tech manual on that one. I think one of the techs called it one-way space fax, whatever that is."

Grissom took another sip of his coffee.

"To sum it up, go out there and find me actionable intel on where I can find the Myriad to talk to them, or how they're getting their tech into the Milky Way. You do that, you send up a flare and I bring the entire might of Task Force Hecate down on their heads. Also, earmark anything of note for the map makers back here," Grissom waved a hand. "The usual boldly going with a big stick in both hands."

"Your classmates sound like a fun time," Jinn stated, smiling. "Last question: Chain of command. Lt. Commander Cerys falls under Captain Ingram. Nominally, I suppose I fall under you? I assume this mission is need-to-know. Does the good Captain need to know?"

"Your mission brief is simple enough: explore, scout, find things. That's public knowledge. We need that knowledge base to be an effective force in Messier 4. In that regard, Commander Cerys is to be your commanding officer. But..." Grissom held up a hand. "And this rankles me a bit, in the event of actionable intel that had an imminent threat to Federation assets in M4, Jinn will be in command. His experience in the field is extensive."

"We both have field experience, but I understand," Amie said as she finished off her drink. "Been a while since I've done anything like this. Desk jobs take away from the fun." She looked over at Jinn. "Guess we'll get to know each other too."

"That's the spirit!" Grissom said. "Now the Traveller gave us a few good leads to work on in regards to the Myriad. Now as I understand the Myriad have themselves vassal races that work for them, the bird-like Reka and something called an Ambulatory Hive? These Reka are fractious, and one of their 'Dens' called the Seven Dancing Shadows is actively aiding us. At least one of their members is, this pet Reka of Captain Remas. Now he ran into his tame raider in the Beacon Star System, debris cogged red giant eating up its planets like a Ferengi at a fire sale. It's close enough to be a day trip for the Black Bird and a good test of the Masker. Not to mention its right on our doorstep, and I'd like to see a FOP like that burned off the map or under Starfleet Control. Go there, find these good tame monsters, and get back here before I have to send in the big guns."

"Are we taking this Reka with us?" Jinn asked. "I think I'd at least like to have a sit-down with it to gain some exposure to the race before we head out. Briefings and codex entries are one thing, hands-on experience a very different thing."

He tapped the side of his head. "I'd like to get a baseline reading of the Reka, if you catch my meaning."

"Not to sure about Reka from Beacon, I think Remas is the only sonnovabitch who has one palling around with him. But I hear tell the Brig has a trio of Reka mercenaries in lock up, they were the personal security detail for that frog faced fella. Might not even speak the same regional dialect as the ones you're gonna go face." Grissom said, sipping his coffee. "But then again, you don't need to talk to'em to make'em legible?"

"Not necessarily, no," Jinn replied. "I don't want to dive too deeply, especially since from these reports I'm reading, they have telepathic capabilities of their own, but a surface scan could give me an idea of what we're working with."

"I think I'll leave that to you then, Jinn. I just need to know our timetable here. Just get to the station, end up on an away mission, an interview in the brig, and now this?" Amie shrugged. "Point me in the right direction."

"Nature of the beast Commander, be flexible," Grissom chided. "So far Messier 4 has not been keen to give us answers to any of our questions, that changes with you two. I'll get you access to the Reka Mister Tevran, Meanwhile Commander you can oversee the loading the Black Bird. Talk to its support staff, get to know it. I'm told it's a chatty son of a bitch."

Amie rolled her eyes. "Oh lovely. Guess I'll get my ear talked off, sounds like a hell of a day."

"Excellent, excellent," Grissom said and slapped a hand on the table. "Boundless enthusiasm, I like to see that in my junior officers."


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